Covid-19: Free testing and full sick pay needed to keep us safe

Ben Goldstone, West London Socialist Party

Free universal testing for the Covid-19 virus has ended. As of 31 March, most people in England will have to pay for a lateral flow test. This is despite the fact that Covid case numbers have been on the rise for a while – the latest estimates suggest that one in every 16 people has Covid in the UK.

Free testing will remain for some limited groups of people, including patients in hospital when a test is required for their care, some of the clinically vulnerable, and some workers in high-risk settings.

This does, however, leave other workers, who are still exposed to the public, and unpaid carers and visitors to care homes, having to pay for tests. This is just another example of working-class people having to foot the bill for the Covid crisis, which the government has woefully mishandled and exacerbated further.

For many, a positive Covid test is even more costly. Some will become seriously unwell, and for hundreds of thousands of workers, a positive test means taking a big hit to the increasingly squeezed pay cheque. The government expects workers to survive on just £96.35 a week Statutory Sick Pay, but only if you qualify, and with nothing for the first three days. For many, a day off isn’t an option financially.

With fuel, energy bills and food costs already rising, a crisis created by the government and the capitalist class, this additional levy only continues to strangle our living costs further. Free Covid testing must be re-established to ensure the health and safety of everyone. All workers must be paid in full and from day one if unwell, self-isolating, or looking after loved ones. This is what the trade unions must be fighting for to ensure the health and safety of all workers, as the government and the bosses continue to cut costs and endanger the lives of employees further.